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Paul Pena
R&B


Pena came from a Cape Verdean background and learned the Afro-Portuguese music of those islands, including morna. His musician father also sent him to Spain and Portugal to study flamenco. He began to get interested in blues, though. Through the folk movement in the Sixties, he managed to work his way up and sideways, starting to play with T-bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. He released a solo album on Capitol in 1972 which did fairly well critically if not commercially. He moved to San Francisco and began opening gigs for the Grateful Dead. All the while, Pena was impressing many of the musicians with whom he came in contact. He began work on a second album in 1973, but mismanagement conspired to keep it from ever being released. Through the musicians grapevine, one of the tracks caught the ear of Steve Miller. "Jet Airliner" became a big hit for the Steve Miller Band and its royalties provided a modicum of income for Pena. Although Pena was keeping himself busy, the next time he came to public attention was as a result of his learning Tuvan throat singing. He was listening to shortwave radio and caught a Soviet broadcast of Tuvan music. He did a bit of research to track information down as Tuvan music was highly unknown in the US at that time. When the first recordings of Tuvan throat singing began to be available, he taught himself how to throat sing by listening to recordings. When Kongar-ol Ondar made an appearance in San Francisco, Pena met him and sang for him. Ondar invited him to visit Tuva and participate in a throat singing contest. Pena did and his trip to Tuva is documented in the award-winning film Genghis Blues. Pena won the contest in his category and so impressed the Tuvans that they dubbed him "Earthquake" after his low and resonant kargyraa throat singing style. He has developed a close friendship with Kongar-ol Ondar and has worked with him in developing a hybrid Tuvan blues style. ~ Spidra Webster, All Music Guide

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